Jeremy Corbyn condemns US airstrikes... as Tom Watson calls them ‘proportionate’

Written by David Singleton on 7 April 2017 in Diary

The Labour leader has taken the same side as Vladimir Putin and leading Ukip figures.

Jeremy Corbyn has criticised the US for launching missile strikes against the Assad regime in Syria - hours after his deputy called the strikes a "direct and proportionate response to a clear violation of international law".

The Labour leader said the military action – which was in response to the Syrian government’s suspected use of chemical weapons – risked “escalating the war” and was “without legal authorisation”.

He called instead for an independent investigation by the United Nations into the chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun.

As UK politicians responded to the US cruise missile strikes, Corbyn’s response was one of the last to come in. It arrived in journalist inboxes three hours after Lib Dem leader Tim Farron backed the action and an hour after Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson also supported it.





Watson said the deployment of 59 Tomahawk missiles "appear to be a direct and proportionate response to a clear violation of international law by the Syrian regime".

And former shadow foreign Secretary Hilary Benn added his support for the US action. "Let’s hope Syria will now think twice before deciding to gas its own people again. Priority must be humanitarian assistance for civilians," he said.

Downing Street has said it "fully supports" President Trump’s decision and confirmed that the UK Government was informed of the airstrikes in advance.

Nia Griffith, the shadow defence secretary, is said to have attempted to persuade Corbyn to issue a statement supporting the military action, but failed.

Corbyn, who used to be chairman of the controversial Stop The War Coalition, said: “The US missile attack on a Syrian government air base risks escalating the war in Syria still further.

“Tuesday’s horrific chemical attack was a war crime which requires urgent independent UN investigation and those responsible must be held to account. But unilateral military action without legal authorisation or independent verification risks intensifying a multi-sided conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people.

“What is needed instead is to urgently reconvene the Geneva peace talks and unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement of the conflict. The terrible suffering of the Syrian people must be brought to an end as soon as possible and every intervention must be judged on what contribution it makes to that outcome. The British government should urge restraint on the Trump administration and throw its weight behind peace negotiations and a comprehensive political settlement.”

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage also urged Britain not to get involved in any further air strikes. He said: "I am very surprised by this. I think a lot of Trump voters will be waking up this morning and scratching their heads and saying 'where will it all end?'

And current Ukip leader Paul Nuttall said the missile attack on Syria was "rash, trigger happy, nonsensical and will achieve nothing."

It comes as Russian president Vladimir Putin has condemned the strikes, saying they broke international law and have seriously damaged US-Russia relations.

The Kremlin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, viewed the action taken by Trump as an "aggression against a sovereign state in violation of the norms of international law and on a made-up up pretext".




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